US grounds ENTIRE fleet of 45 B1-B bombers after problem found with afterburner

The U.S. Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of B1-B bombers after finding a problem with the plane’s fuel system. 

That takes out a third of the Air Force’s entire fleet of bombers.

General Tim Ryan, commander of the Global Strike Command, said that he ‘ordered a safety stand-down’ on Tuesday.

The decision was made after a ‘ground emergency’ on April 8 at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota – one of two bases where the B1-B is currently housed. The other is Dyess Air Force Base, in Texas.

The troubled aircraft, first brought into service under Ronald Reagan, are due to be phased out by 2030.

In the most recent incident engineers discovered what defense website The War Zone said was a ‘massive hole’ in the filter housing, which was leaking a large amount of fuel.

The entire fleet of the B1-B bombers, 45 in total, have been grounded due to fuel problems

The entire fleet of the B1-B bombers, 45 in total, have been grounded due to fuel problems

The entire fleet of the B1-B bombers, 45 in total, have been grounded due to fuel problems

A B1-B bomber is seen at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas on April 19

A B1-B bomber is seen at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas on April 19

A B1-B bomber is seen at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas on April 19

General Tim Ryan, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, confirmed the news

General Tim Ryan, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, confirmed the news

General Tim Ryan, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, confirmed the news

The site reported that the plane which sparked the concern, identified as 86-0104, had been seen trailing a large plume of unburned fuel on landing.

Afterburners, needed for additional thrust, especially on take-off, will not work if the filter housing is not operational.

Ryan confirmed in his statement that ‘a discrepancy with an Augmenter Fuel Pump Filter Housing was discovered.’

He said that, on further inspection, they grounded the entire fleet.

‘Individual aircraft will return to flight when they are deemed safe to fly by Air Force officials,’ he said. 

Ryan did not say how many aircraft were in the fleet, but the B1-B has been plagued with issues for years.

A mechanic is seen inspecting a B1-B bomber in 2011 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada

A mechanic is seen inspecting a B1-B bomber in 2011 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada

A mechanic is seen inspecting a B1-B bomber in 2011 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada

Of the 100 built, the U.S. Air Force decided in 2001 to retire 33, to pay for modernization efforts. In February, 17 more were retired, meaning that the force was down to just 45, according to FlightGlobal.

A year before, in April 2020, Maj. Gen. Larry Stutzriem (ret.) and Douglas Birkey had warned that America’s bomber force was facing a crisis.

At the end of the Cold War, they wrote in DefenseNews.com, the USAF possessed 400 bombers designed to fight the Soviet Union. They said the figure by April 2020 had dropped to just 157 – down to 140, since the February retirement of the 17 B1-Bs.

The U.S. Air Force operates B-1s, B-2s and B-52s, and is one of only three countries to have bombers.

Russia, according to a February report by the Center for Naval Analysis, has 127 SU-34 fighter bombers, and one or two TU-160 strategic bombers.

China is by far the leader in bombers, according to a new count by plane-spotter Thomas Shugart, cited by Forbes in November.

Shugart found that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force possesses as many as 231 H-6s.

The B1-B supersonic bomber, known as the ‘Bone’, began service in 1985.

The crew of a B1-B bomber are pictured on April 19 at Dyess base in Texas

The crew of a B1-B bomber are pictured on April 19 at Dyess base in Texas

The crew of a B1-B bomber are pictured on April 19 at Dyess base in Texas

It was designed to fly at a minimum speed of Mach 0.85 and as low as 200ft, using terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radar, on penetrating nuclear strikes against the Soviet Union.

Its low-altitude and nap-of-the-earth flight profile was intended to avoid detection by Soviet ground radar.

In 1994, with the Cold War over, the Air Force eliminated the B-1B’s nuclear mission.

The bomber found new work with the start of the War on Terror in 2001, flying close air-support missions for the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But those missions, which involved slow flying with wings forward – not swept, as intended for penetration strikes – overstressed the B-1B’s wings, causing cracks, the USAF has said. 

‘Due to the wear and tear placed on the B-1 fleet over the past two decades, maintaining these bombers would cost tens of millions of dollars per aircraft to get back to status quo. And that’s just to fix the problems we know about,’ said Ray on February 17.

‘We’re just accelerating planned retirements.’

In August 2019 General John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that only six of their 62 B1-Bs were fully mission operational.

In April 2019 Ray had warned that the Air Force had ‘overextended’ the planes in the Middle East.

The B1-Bs were heavily used in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Flying missions against ISIS in the opening days of Operation Inherent Resolve, they were able to carry more munitions than that delivered by an entire carrier air wing.

‘We saw issues in the B1-Bs because we’re just beating the heck out of them – deploying them, deploying them,’ said Hyten.

He said they had to ‘pull back a little bit’ and fix the planes where possible.

The B1-Bs were grounded in June and March 2019, due to problems with the ejection seats.

Link hienalouca.com

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